This is the second post in my series about the pillars of health. Find the first post here:
How the Pillars of Health Look Like a SMILE
In my last post, I talked about the importance of the pillars of health and how we use our S.M.I.L.E. questionnaire to build awareness and strategies in the improvement of these. I also left you with 6 questions that were aimed to prompt action in a number of key lifestyle areas. I hope they were helpful.
Today I would like to tease out some detail from within the questionnaire and focus on an important element in the S.M.I.L.E. questionnaire – Sunlight.
Over the last few decades there has been a progressive trend primarily focusing on the potential harmful effects of too much sun exposure. However, this conversation has sometimes been made without the mention of the many positives associated with “full spectrum light”. Before listing these favourable attributes, the one comment that must be made is that moderate exposure to sunlight, (ie. 30 minutes per day), is not only safe – but vital to healthy human function. In fact, scientists officially class sunlight as an essential nutrient, along with food, water and air.
Some of the benefits of Sunlight are as follows
- Cardiovascular System
Skin contains significant stores of nitrogen oxides, which can be converted to nitric oxide by UV radiation and exported to the systemic circulation. Nitric oxide causes arterial vasodilatation and therefore reduced blood pressure and systemic improved blood flow. (1)
Sunlight promotes the production of Vitamin D, Nitric oxide and Heme Oxygenase -1, all of which reduce liver inflammation and improve its general functions with respect to detoxification, weight loss and hormone regulation. (2)
- Immune System
UV radiation from sunlight can modify both innate and adaptive immune responses, thus providing benefit to both inflammatory and autoimmune diseases. (3)
- Vitamin D Production
The ultra-violet B in sunlight converts 7-dehydrocholesterol, found in the skin, to vitamin D3. Vitamin D is considered to be one of the body’s most important micronutrients and is controversially under-respected in its role in disease. Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to over 200 diseases and is essential for healthy immunity, bones, muscles, mood, cognition, lungs, heart, kidneys, skin and body composition. (4)
Sunlight stimulates the production of Melatonin within the Pineal Gland. Its key role is to prepare the body for sleep. Melatonin is manufactured during daylight hours and at the cessation of exposure to sunlight, the Pineal Gland ceases manufacturing Melatonin and begins secreting it into the bloodstream, thus inducing sleep. (5)
Serotonin is produced during the day from ultra-violet rays in sunlight. Moderately high serotonin levels are linked to more positive moods, calmness and a focused mental outlook. Not surprisingly, the winter blues or Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) has been linked with the lower serotonin levels associated with the shorter, less sunny days of Winter.
So, in summary, if you want healthy blood pressure, improved detoxification, better hormone regulation, decreased inflammation, more of the super nutrient vitamin D, sound sleep, improved mood and superior focus it could be as simple as making the time to let the sun kiss your skin for 30 minutes per day.
(1) Blood Purification 2016;41:130–134 DOI: 10.1159/000441266 Sunlight Has Cardiovascular Benefits Independently of Vitamin D Richard B. Weller Medical Research Council Centre for Inflammation Research, University of Edinburgh, Queen’s Medical Research Institute, Edinburgh , UK
(2) Nutrients. 2015 May; 7(5): 3219–3239. DOI: 10.3390/nu7053219 PMCID: PMC4446748 PMID: 25951129
Can Skin Exposure to Sunlight Prevent Liver Inflammation? Shelley Gorman, Lucinda J. Black, Martin Feelisch, Prue H. Hart and Richard Weller
(3) Nat Rev Immunol . 2019 Nov;19(11) :688-701. DOI: 10.1038/s41577-019-0185-9 PMID: 31213673 Photoimmunology: How Ultraviolet Radiation Affects the Immune System Jamie J Bernard , Richard L Gallo , Jean Krutmann
(4) J Pharmacol Pharmacother. 2012 Apr-Jun; 3(2): 118–126. doi: 10.4103/0976-500X.95506 PMCID: PMC3356951 PMID: 22629085 Vitamin D: The “sunshine” vitamin Rathish Nair and Arun Maseeh
(5) Environ Health Perspect. 2008 Apr; 116(4): A160–A167. DOIi: 10.1289/ehp.116-a160 PMCID: PMC2290997 PMID: 18414615 Benefits of Sunlight: A Bright Spot for Human Health M. Nathaniel Mead
(6) Med Hypotheses 2016 Dec;97:34-37. DOI: 10.1016/j.mehy.2016.10.011. PMID: 27876126 Regular Sun Exposure Benefits Health H J van der Rhee 1, E de Vries 2, J W Coebergh 3